I Announced My Cancer Diagnosis On Social Media, And The MLM DMs Poured In

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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When I announced to my social media followers that I have a breast cancer recurrence, I was flooded with supportive comments and gifts. I saw a large uptick in the number of direct messages I receive, many women sharing with me their personal health stories. It was an honor to share in their struggle. What I didn’t expect was that I’d also be met with several “hey, girl” and “hey, friend” messages offering me “cures” for my breast cancer, brought to me by MLM consultants.

I’m no stranger to such messages. As a type 1 diabetic, I occasionally receive a DM offering to send me samples of shake mixes, supplements, and essential oils. They are guaranteed (insert eye roll) to fix my autoimmune disease. My disease has no medical cure, but luckily, an MLM company does! If I would just take a chance on a roll-on oil, a high-dose vitamin made from the bark of a tree that no one has ever heard of, or commit to a green smoothie every morning, I would no longer be sick.

I receive an equal number of messages in which this MLM representative wants me to know there are so many perks of me joining their sales team. I can get a deep discount, free product, and the chance to attend conferences in which we all cheer each other on and learn about the latest products. I can be in their ”tribe,” they say (let’s not even get started on how problematic that word in itself is) and make a difference in the lives of others.

Gee. Thanks, but no thanks. I won’t be allowing someone to utilize my diseases or diagnoses for their profit. Gross.

Disturbed? You should be. MLM reps are not medical experts, yet they swear they can help patients like me who are facing major health battles. They bombard us with faux-empathy and then promise us a one-way ticket out of Sick Town. How can we pass on something that is natural, organic, or both? They sell hope in a bottle, packet, or vial.

I’m not knocking anything that is proven. I take a handful of supplements every morning—all of which were recommended to me by a registered dietitian. You know, a real medical professional with a degree and a whole lot of continuing education, one who only recommends products based on actual studies and evidence. I drink a green smoothie or juice, that I make myself, on the daily. I absolutely believe that the swamp-sludge looking drink helps me have more energy and become more hydrated. I own an essential oil diffuser, I take Epsom salt baths, and I read every cleaning product label before using it in my house.

That said, I’m not going to chuckle at years of medical research that says there are effective, proven treatments for my diagnoses. Here’s an example. Let me tell you, if I go one day without insulin, that would be the day my life ended. If I decided to forgo chemo for a vitamin concoction “prescribed” to me by Jennifer from California, I have no doubt I would regret that choice.

Yes, I’m gonna keep exercising, meditating, journaling, praying, and taking my vitamins. But I’m not going to release common sense and medical advice — from actual doctors — for a capsule of crushed, organic herbs that Lisa from Minnesota is telling me will annihilate my cancer cells.

I’m tired of MLM ambassadors (what the heck does that even mean?) trying to make a buck off my health issues. They don’t really care about me, nor have the right to call me “girl” or “friend.” They see me as an opportunity to make a profit. They aren’t really trying to help me. They are trying to use me. I’m not having it. I don’t ever respond to their DMs, because frankly, their ableist messages exhaust me further. I need to save my energy for my health battles.

I can see right through them, but what pisses me off is that others may not. Others might actually listen to Essential Oil Ann or Supplement Susan by ignoring the hard truths and instead, putting their health (even more) on the line by purchasing and using unproven, overpriced, unregulated products. Truly, there is comfort in having a woman-to-woman discussion and being offered something less harsh than, let’s say, radiation. But my life, and the life of another, isn’t a Hallmark movie where snow or a gentle rain falls, a miracle happens, and everyone’s health is restored. A tough diagnosis needs tough love—in the form of real medical advice from medical professionals who went to school for a decade (sometimes more).


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Just because I’m sick, it doesn’t mean I need an exercise program or a life coach, either. When I need help navigating the intricacies of medical trauma and anxiety, I go to a licensed therapist. If I want to step up or ease off my exercise game for something manageable, I talk to my physical therapist or seek out help from exercise experts who have worked with patients like me. I’m not interested in funding someone’s side hustle—especially when that person has about two hot seconds of education and experience (if any).

My dad, a former salesperson, always taught me that the old cliché is legit. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. Anyone promising to cure me is lying. For if they had the true remedy for my autoimmune disease, my cancer, or my anxiety, they would be a world-renowned hero. What they wouldn’t be? Working for a few coins a day — if that — for a pyramid scheme company. They wouldn’t be sliding into DMs and sometimes, relentlessly reaching out to me in any way they can.

Ultimately, what I want these MLM predators to know is that I’m not available to be their guinea pig, nor am I willing to join their ranks and use my disease for their glory or bank account. I wish that instead of attempting to take advantage of me and my health battles, they’d go into a field that truly helps people manage and heal their diseases. If and until you are a real medical professional, one that I choose to allow into the intimate parts of my life, stay far, far away from me. I won’t RSVP to your pseudo-science. I have a battle to fight.

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